Rassie Erasmus says the Springboks hope to learn a lot about Damian Willemse’s aptitude for Test rugby in Saturday’s high-pressure clash against England at Twickenham.
After featuring off the bench in three Tests this year, Willemse will make his run-on debut at fullback when the Boks kick off their end-of-year tour.
During the Currie Cup playoffs, the 20-year-old started at flyhalf and inside centre, and will now feature in a third different position in as many weeks.
However, Erasmus has remained steadfast in his belief that Willemse’s introduction to Test rugby should primarily be at fullback, and the Bok coach said he was looking forward to seeing what the youngster could offer on Saturday.
‘We’ve always had Willie [le Roux] available and that’s been a luxury, but Damian has been with us for most of the Test matches [this year], and he’s comfortable in the set-up. Somewhere along the line, you have to start a Test match.
‘It doesn’t get much bigger than a Test at Twickenham against England, and with the World Cup in mind, this will be a valuable experience. In front of a full house with lots of pressure, and the importance of the kicking game, we will learn a lot about him. He deserves this chance.’
Although overseas-based Le Roux is unavailable this Saturday as the Test falls outside the international window, he has still been in camp with the Boks this week.
When asked at Thursday’s press conference whether it was ‘annoying’ to have a player with the team who couldn’t be selected, Erasmus suggested it was something outside their control.
‘We know the rules and can’t be annoyed by it, we’ve accepted it. It’s an opportunity for others, and we’ll learn some valuable lessons. Willie has been helping us out a bit this week, and he will be officially part of the squad from Sunday. ‘
POLL: Who will win Saturday’s Test at Twickenham?
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 29, 2018
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images